The VIPP Report: Remembering Muhammad Ali on what would have been his 79th birthday

For the FIRST time, his life-long caregiver sits down with me for more than a hour telling me things so many people have no idea about the ‘Greatest of All Time’. This is just a small portion of my interview that I wanted to share.


Special Report by Sherlene Shanklin, WHAS11, ABC Louisville

Muhammad Ali and Sherlene Shanklin at the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville, KY.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — On Sunday, Muhammad Ali would have been 79. 

On June 3rd, 2016 Ali passed away and thousands lined the streets of Louisville to thank the champ who was not only a boxing champion but an activist and philanthropist respected by many across the world.

For the first time, in an exclusive interview, WHAS11 talked to the person who was his childhood friend, caregiver and sister-in-law. You saw her in many photos over the years. 

Now, Whas11’s Sherlene Shanklin tells you her story of the Champ you didn’t know.

Marilyn Williams says “Muhammad’s mother Odessa Clay and my mother Marguerite Williams were best friends.”

Their families were very close. As a child, she looked up to him as a big brother having no idea that years later she would call him her brother-in-law.

‘Lonnie Ali is my big sister,” Williams said.

Prior to working with family, she was a successful entrepreneur owning her own salon and then worked at the Ford Plant right here in Louisville.

So, when Lonnie was looking for someone to help with their business affairs and later assist Ali and with his Parkinson’s diagnosis, Marilyn was the perfect choice to be his caregiver while some even thought she was their bodyguard.

“I was his security because if you got close to Muhammad you were in trouble if you weren’t supposed to be there,” said Williams.

She talked to me about being a caregiver for Ali. “I knew I had to do the best I could do. I had to be the best. I had to be on it. I knew this man. I knew him ever since I was a child so I had to be on it.”

People always asked, could he speak after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s? Williams said, “Muhammad could smile, stars eyes would just sparkle and he talked a lot with his eyes, he talked with his voice, his hands. He definitely got his message across.”

Anytime ‘the Champ’ could get home he did and Marilyn shared this fond memory.

“Muhammad loved Louisville. You say Louisville if I was working and I said I was going on vacation. Where are you going? I said I’m going to Louisville. I wanna go.”

Williams showing me a piece of art that Ali created.

I also asked Williams could she tell me something about Ali people didn’t know. She sighs before answering–“Muhammad and Lonnie will say this too. He had a kind and loving heart. He saw nothing wrong with no one. He would be with kings and queens, presidents and then turn around and be with the poorest person on this earth or the sickest person on this earth. It didn’t matter to him. He loved all.”

To see everything happening in Louisville sometimes even along the street that bears his name and across the country how does that make you feel?

“Well I can’t actually speak for Muhammad because he can speak for himself but a few things he taught me and that was respect for all mankind. One thing I asked him, I was always asking him questions when I was younger growing up and he told me that there’s good and bad in every race and every religion. There’s good and bad,” Williams said.

The final question of the interview I had to ask what she misses the most about the GOAT?

With tears in her eyes, she responded by saying “His eyes, his kindness, his spirit, his spirit was so beautiful. To be around him he gave you energy. Even if there was a gray day outside he made the sunshine.”

I had to use the video one more time of Louisville’s own, the man who had no problem telling you “I’m still the greatest!!!”

Here’s the link to the story. ->

Contact Sherlene Shanklin at or follow me on FacebookTwitter, or Instagram.

Sherlene Shanklin is an EMMY Award winning journalist. Two-time Society of Professional Journalists, (SPJ) winner for sports writing and best use of social media. Multiple award winner for the Associated Press. Career spans nearly 30 years with an emphasis but not limited to news in Kentucky and Southern Indiana.

The VIPP Report: The “Greatest” Muhammad Ali is back in his hometown to honor some special people during his annual Ali Humanitarian Awards

Courtesy: Muhammad Ali Center

Courtesy: Muhammad Ali Center

Special report from Sherlene Shanklin, WHAS11 Television, ABC Louisville

We are just a few days away from the Third Annual Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Awards.  It was created to celebrate the greatness of people from around the world who are making difference in their communities and beyond. The third event will be held at the Louisville Marriott Downtown this Saturday evening, September 19th at 6:30 p.m.

The fundraising gala honors individuals’ significant contributions around the world toward the attainment of peace, social justice, or other positive actions pertaining to human or social capital. The Lifetime Achievement Award will be presented to the multi-talented artist and social justice activist Harry Belafonte. Academy Award winning actress, humanitarian and women’s advocate Geena Davis will be honored as the Muhammad Ali Humanitarian of the Year.  Dr. Andrew Moore from Lexington, Kentucky, who founded Surgery on Sunday, will be named the 2015 Kentucky Muhammad Ali Humanitarian of the Year and Rose Mapendo will be honored with the Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Award for Gender Equality.

There’s also be six people under the age of 30 who will be honored with an award for each of Muhammad’s Six Core Principles: Confidence, Conviction, Dedication, Giving, Respect and Spirituality.

Four-time Olympic Gold Medalist Janet Evans will be the emcee and host for the evening.  In 1996, Evans was the Olympic Torchbearer in Atlanta that passed the torch to Ali at the Opening Ceremonies.

Some of this year’s presenters will be:

Lonnie Ali, along with her husband, is a Vice Chair of the Muhammad Ali Center

Donald Lassere, President and CEO of the Muhammad Ali Center

Greg Fischer, Mayor of Metro Louisville, initiator of the city’s annual “Give A Day” Week, and Compassionate City advocate

Max Joseph, filmmaker, co-host of MTV’s popular Catfish series, and Director of We Are Your Friends

Jennifer Clinton, PhD, President and Global Ties U.S., which helped facilitate the awards process for the Six Principle winners

Dhani Jones, entrepreneur, TV host, author, philanthropist, and former NFL linebacker

Aaron Stevens (aka Damien Sandow), professional wrestler with the WWE, who resides in Louisville, KY

For additional information go to  If you have a story idea, send it to me at  You can also follow me on Twitter @Sherlenemediapr and Instagram Sherlenemediapro.

Email: @VIPPComm.